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Trying To Solve the Rubik's Cube of Razorback Relevance

Football trending up (stay awhile, Boot), basketball rebuilding.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The LSU win was so good that its aftermath, almost a week later, dulls the pain of a home hoops loss to Akron.

Once upon a time, Razorback football and basketball lived together in place called Conference Contender Towers on a street named Relevance, No. (Top) 20.

Alas, trying to sync the two money programs (with a shout-out to the consistently brilliant Diamond Hogs, whose program runs in the black as well) has proven harder than solving Rubik's Cube, popular back when Razorback fans enjoyed gravy, generally, from September though April.

From the late '70s when Eddie Sutton introduced the dance known as basketball to a gridiron-centric population and the state fell in love with three homegrown, 6-4 monster guards known as the Triplets, to our badly-timed-from-a-football-perspective entry into the SEC in '92, expectations for winter and spring centered on conference championships, bowl games and NCAA tournaments. (Go ahead and take a breath. That was a doozie.)

On the football field, we're once again teasing of bursting back onto the national scene. The aftermath of taking down Ole Miss and LSU on the road after a 1-3 September is almost surreal. Of course, our mere membership in the SEC West alone lends itself to some small degree of national prominence. But NovemBERT is a thing now, and while losing to what remains a very good Mississippi State team is a very real possibility on Saturday (Bama beatdown aside), I wouldn't want to play us in November.

We'll finish strong, perhaps even wrangling a New Year's Day bowl. (Emphasis on perhaps.) Starting strong, of course, is the next hurdle.

To finish strong, we'll first have to overcome Dak, a better version of Tech's Mahomes. And we all remember the night he had in Fayetteville. Ole Miss showing notwithstanding, I think our D will offer up a better effort than it did against the Raiders.

The Maroons better know what's coming for them on the other side of the ball, though. Forget the excuses: LSU, while not Bama, is a very good defense and Ole Miss is known to be decent on that side of the ball as well. We made each unit look bad.

Evidence of this offensive juggernaut we now ride began to reveal itself against Auburn, but in Oxford and Baton Rouge on consecutive Saturday nights, it gelled. Not sure I've ever seen a better performance from a Razorback QB than BA's at Ole Miss, and I got to see Joe Ferguson in person. (I was like 6, but still. And apologies to Matt Jones.) Against LSU, we didn't need him to throw for 400, but I'm confident he could've if necessary.

The OL now is fully embodied in Tretola's pre-game, midfield stance against a few Tigers and their trooper "dad." They didn't move him, pre-game or otherwise. As big a hit as our branding took in September, it's soaring now.

The basketball brand, on the other hand, took a hit on Wednesday. No shame, necessarily, in losing to a good Akron team. (Ohio again.....ugh.) But doing so at home in front of friends and family, essentially....not a good picture. And the perception/reality that UK can come in and cherry pick at will isn't helping.

As for the current team, it'll require some patience. We looked better Friday night, TCBing against CSU, but CSU is no Akron. We'll develop some rhythm and the light bulb will click on for Whitt eventually. But surely we all understand by now where we are and that, well, patience. (I tell ya, it's the Slobber Hog. Bring him back, Jeff, please.)

Even with no Malik in the incoming hoops class, next year should give us a good chance at solving that football-basketball relevance Rubik's Cube. Being good in both sure seems to be hit-or-miss these days.

Despite the slow start, it's evident Bielema is building. I hope Mike is too. Having the two money programs relevant simultaneously sure is a good feeling, one us "old timers" took for granted back in the day.